Kemba Walker didn't want to leave Hornets: 'I love Charlotte'

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By , Audacy Sports

To want to sign a long-term contract with a team at age 29, after you've already spent nearly a decade with said team, you must really enjoy being there. And when that team reached a historic low in your first year there, in the form of a 7-win season, and never had much playoff success, you've got to really love being there.

But that was how Kemba Walker felt about living in Charlotte and playing for the Hornets, as he revealed in the latest episode of Cadence13 and ThreeFourTwo Production's "The Old Man on the Three" that he really didn't want to leave as his contract was set to expire.

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"If it was a max offer, I definitely would have taken it. I did not want to leave Charlotte... I loved Charlotte," Walker said. "I still live there to this day. I love Charlotte, love everything about Charlotte. The organization, everything. Yeah, I did not want to leave. But I just kind of felt like, if I wasn't getting my max, that I shouldn't be there, you know?

"I felt like I was worth more, like I'd done so much there that I kind of had to just move on. That was kind of my thought process in that situation."

But the Hornets opted not to give Walker the supermax contract that he was eligible for, instead extending a reported five-year, $160 million offer — $60 million less than the max. For a player who had played nearly every game over the past three seasons and was coming off an All-NBA campaign with. 25.6 points, 5.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game, the max offer clearly felt like a more fair evaluation of his talent. At the time, his feelings felt similar to what we heard from him now.

"Tough days, f---ing tough days, I can’t even lie," Walker told NBA insider Shams Charania in 2019. "Excuse my language. It was difficult. I couldn’t see myself just being on another team. It was just hard. That’s all I’ve known was Charlotte. Definitely some tough times. I had a feeling that I wasn’t going to get the offer that I wanted, and maybe not close to it, because of cap space. I had to get my head wrapped around the feeling and picking another team."

Still, it's not as though Walker feels he made the wrong decision in joining the Celtics and making more yearly money, early nearly $141 million over four years after a sign-and-trade between Charlotte and Boston. Things didn't exactly pan out as well as he and many others would have liked, but that's something he couldn't foresee and something he views as out of his control.

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"Like I said, man, I do love Charlotte, like a lot. Do I think it was the right decision? I mean, I do. I can't take it back, you know?," Walker told host JJ Redick. "But it's just, it's just my story. This is my story, it's my journey. Would I have the love for the way my story has been going, to go this way? Maybe not. You know, I never would have expected myself to have been traded or get a buyout from a team, you know, and be picked up by another team through free agency again. No, not at all.

"But I don't think it has anything to do with my talent. I know it doesn't. The whole situation has just always been my health and my knee, you know. That's been the only problem, so, I can't be mad at any of that or how anything has went."

Now, after an underwhelming run in Boston and a tumultuous offseason, Walker finds himself back home in New York with the Knicks, making three-pointers at a higher percentage than ever before (42.1 percent) but working to get back into the swing of things. The ride hasn't been smooth, and he's acknowledged it, but there's also a lot of good. For instance, playing in front of the home fans at MSG is an experience he hadn't yet known.

"I'm super biased. It's no greater fan base. Like, it's special. It's special, because I just feel like they know the game and I think it's fun for the things that they cheer for, you know?" Walker explaind. "Like, they cheer for a guy diving into the crowd for a loose ball, they cheer for the guy taking a charge, they cheer for a guy making the extra pass, you know? So I think that makes it really, really special.

"To answer your question, no. There's no greater fan base."

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